South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Safety concerns aired at block watch


November 2, 2010

Public safety was the theme of the October Upper Knoxville Block Watch meeting, with guest speakers Zone 3 Acting Commander Lieutenant Shirley Sloan, Crime Prevention Officer Christine Luffey, and Magisterial Judge Richard G. King.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus was also in attendance, and spoke at the end of the meeting.

In her presentation, Acting Commander Sloan said residents are often hesitant to call 911 when they spot a suspicious person in the neighborhood, but they should still make the call. Jucunda St., for example, is busy with drug arrests and burglaries.

"You are our backbone. You are our eyes," she said. Besides 911, you may also email her at, or contact Officer Luffey.

"When they get drugs in your area, the other crimes will follow," she said.

A resident commented, Knoxville isn't doing too badly compared to the rest of the city, to which Acting Commander Sloan agreed the number of shootings is down.

Another resident said she called 911 about a group of young men on the street talking about guns and violence, but responding officers did not get out of their car.

Acting Commander Sloan said if it happens again, ask 911 to send a supervisor, or else tell the supervisor what the officers did and the vehicle number.

Mr. Kraus said his office receives calls daily about police officers simply driving by a troublesome situation. The lack of action does not help with the "three calls or out" nuisance property legislation, he said, because the officer must file a report to be counted against the property.

Another resident complained about a group of up to 100 youngsters who trespass on nearby private property — running and screaming, scratching cars, and damaging property. The acting commander said she will send patrols to the area.

In her presentation, Officer Luffey said the force needs everyone to become involved in the community. "Don't stop calling 911," she said.

The "good news," she reported, is she has been monitoring police reports, and "narcotics (officers) are making a ton of arrests in the Hilltop.

"There were 17 drug arrests in Knoxville from Sept. 20 to Oct. 20. That is also leading to the removal of illegal guns, she said.

Lt. Sloan said to call 311 with addresses of drug houses. A resident replied when he sees drug trafficking on Arlington Ave., he gets the license number and calls it in to the police.

Judge King, in his presentation, said a state bill which passed the House and Senate, and awaits the governor's signature, is designed to reduce the number of abandoned properties in a neighborhood. It would allow municipalities to recover the costs of demolishing a blighted property by placing a lien against the owner's assets. It would also allow for the extradition of property owners after violations are filed in Common Pleas Court.

He also told attendees about the Lawyer Referral Service, in which a person can meet with a lawyer for 30 minutes for $25 to discuss any personal legal matter. No walk-ins are accepted for the service. Residents should call 412-261-5555 for an appointment.

They can also meet with a district attorney to talk about a criminal situation on Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Pittsburgh Municipal Court, 660 First Ave. It is free, and no appointment is necessary.

At the meeting's conclusion, Mr. Kraus introduced volunteers Donna Wielock and Arlene Trost, who staff his Hilltop satellite office. The office is in the county's Adult Probation Day Reporting Center at 2320 Arlington Ave., and is open Mondays and Wednesdays from noon to 3 p.m.

The two women file 311 anonymous complaints, track responses, and provide other free assistance. Residents are able to stop in and discuss their neighborhood concerns instead of travelling downtown.

He also had good, recent news to report: the Carnegie Library board agreed to allocate as much as $4.9 million to the Hilltop to build its own library on Brownsville Rd. The amount is based on estimates from previous library renovations and anticipated square footage for the possible new branch.

Also, the Warrington Recreation Center spray park received the go-ahead, and should open next summer.

In neighborhood news, block watch president Mary Ann Bennett read a list of 88 reported crimes in Knoxville from Sept. 1 to Oct. 12.

There were: 3 aggravated assaults, 1 arson, 13 burglaries, 11 criminal mischiefs, 2 criminal trespassings, 15 drugs, 1 DUI, 1 fire, 5 harassments, 10 incidents, 1 recovered stolen auto, 4 strong arm robberies, 4 simple assaults, 1 stolen vehicle, 2 theft from autos, 1 theft by deception, 5 thefts from persons, 1 unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and 7 VALS (driving offense; altered stickers).

The distribution of the 88 total reports in the areas covered by Knoxville's three block watches are:

26 reports, or 30 percent of crime stats, in Upper Knoxville; 49 reports, or 55 percent of crime stats, in the 30th Ward; and 13 reports, or 15 percent of crime stats, in McKinley.

Of the 26 reports in Upper Knoxville, the breakdown by blocks/streets is:

• Aggravated assault (1): Knox Ave. and Rochelle St.

• Burglary (4): 100 block of Jucunda St. (1); 100 block of Knox Ave. (1); 200 block of Zara St. (2)

• Criminal mischief (3): 200 block of Jucunda St. (2); 400 block of Jucunda St. (1)

• Criminal tresspassing (2): 400 block of Charles St. (1); 300 block of Rochelle St. (1)

• Drug arrests (4): Elsinburg Way and Grimes Ave. (1); Ibis Way and Sylvania Way (1); 100 block of Orchard Place and Amanda Ave. (1); 100 block of Zara St. (1)

• Fire (1): Ibis Way and 100 block of Zara St.

• Incident (3): 400 block of Charles St. (1); 200 block of Jucunda St. (1); 200 block of Orchard Place (1)

• Strong armed robbery (1): Sylvania Way and Georgia Ave.

• Recovered vehicle (1): 300 block of Zara St.

• Simple assault (1): 400 block of Rochelle St.

• Stolen vehicle (1): 100 block of Knox Ave.

• Theft from person (1): 100 block of Grimes Ave.

• Unauthorized use of vehicle (1): 300 block of Rochelle St.

• VALS (driving offense; altered stickers) (2): 100 block of Knox Ave. (1); 100 block of Rochelle and Amanda Ave. (1)

The next block watch meeting will be in 2011.


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